Skin Isn’t Shameful

Somehow, my skin manages to make me feel isolated. Since the age of 11, I’ve struggled with acne and continue to do so now, though to a lesser extent. While I’ve come a long way long way in terms of confidence about my skin, there are still complications that come with having acne that are worth addressing. Acne is stigmatized and portrayed as ugly, so I, like others who have acne, am often blamed for something I cannot control.

Often times, TV and media avoid portraying someone with visible acne, and I believe this stems from the notion that acne is seen as unattractive. Even in commercials for skin products, the actors are shown washing clear skin and slathering lotions on a full face of makeup. When acne cannot even be shown by the companies who advertise solutions to it, it teaches people with acne to be ashamed of their skin. It teaches them that they must hide their acne and refrain from talking about it.

This is perpetuated on a personal level as well through the societal expectation to cover up one’s acne with makeup. Even on campus, I have heard peers make disrespectful comments about others’ skin, suggesting that they should cover it up. For many people with acne, including myself, using concealer can clog pores and make the condition worse, especially if used on a daily basis. Additionally, for many people, daily makeup takes a lot of effort and money that not everyone has. Plenty of people don’t even consider hiding their acne because they don’t see it as something that needs to be hidden, which is perfectly reasonable. While people are free to cover their acne with makeup, people who who decide against it should not be disparaged or isolated.

Personally, I leave my skin uncovered on a daily basis, and I always have. For some reason, my bare skin sometimes serves as an invitation for people to make unsolicited comments about my acne and give me unhelpful advice. I receive rude remarks from family and friends informing me when my acne gets worse and recommending a myriad of expensive products and treatment, as if I was previously unaware of the state of my own skin. Although this comes from a good place, giving unsolicited advice about someone’s acne places an unneeded importance on their skin rather than their personhood. It says that you are more concerned with clearing their skin than respecting them as a person.

A normal condition like acne should not be equated with a lack of hygiene or laziness of an individual. The tendency to give unsolicited comments on other people’s skin promotes the idea that those with acne are at fault for causing it or failing to correct it. People are blamed for their own acne because those who have not experienced it believe that there are obvious solutions, which is not always the case.

The stigmatization and portrayal of acne as ugly diminishes the self confidence of countless people. People who have acne often feel responsible for their condition and are ashamed of it. In order to promote self-love and inclusion, society must be more understanding of different skin.

Sarika Rao is a two-year Lower from Andover, Mass.